May 11 2004
NFB leads Canada at Cannes
Toronto — No Egoyan. No Cronenberg. No Arcand.
This year, as it has so often in the past, the National Film Board
will be carrying the can at Cannes for Canada.
The NFB is bringing several shorts and documentaries to the
prestigious festival, which opens Wednesday and runs until May 23.
And at least one of them has the potential to spark an international
What Remains of Us (Ce qu’il reste de nous) is a feature-length
documentary that follows a young Tibetan refugee in Quebec who
smuggles a forbidden videotaped message from the Dalai Lama back into
her native land and shows it to various Tibetan families. Chinese
authorities could impose severe penalties on any Tibetan caught
viewing the five-minute tape of the exiled spiritual leader and major
security precautions were taken when the film was screened recently
at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival.
There have been fears that if the Chinese get their hands on a copy
of the film, they might be able to identify and track down the
anonymous Tibetans who allowed their reaction to the tape to be
Two years ago when Atom Egoyan’s Ararat was screened at Cannes there
were concerns the film would spark protests from the Turkish
community because of its politically charged theme that the Turks
inflicted genocide on the Armenians during the First World War.
Trouble never materialized and the co-producer of What Remains of Us,
Francois Prevost, isn’t anticipating any this time either. But he
says security will be in place anyway.
“The reason for security obviously is not to have any pictures going
out of the theatre,” he says.
Prevost is also in touch with a network of people within Tibet and
says that so far nothing has happened to any of the 17 people there
who were brave enough to take part.
But he does hope the film initiates an international dialogue, with
both foreign governments and the Chinese communities in their
countries about the half-century of oppression of six million Tibetan
“We see this culture disappearing,” Prevost says. “Countries don’t
want to face China about this issue and they all want to keep their
economic links. So that’s a major, major, major point that is not
talked about enough.”
The film will be screened out of competition next Sunday but
co-director Hugo Latulippe isn’t looking for any prizes, just the
“It’s already a prize for us really to go there and bring our message
to the world. It’s fantastic.”
Another major film board entry will be a very avant-garde digital
animation short called Ryan.
The creation of Toronto-based animator Chris Landreth, it uses
surreal 3-D imagery to tell the story of one of Landreth’s
predecessors, Ryan Larkin, a groundbreaking animator with the NFB
back in the 1960s, whose decline, apparently a combination of
creative block, alcohol and drugs, has left him panhandling on the
streets of Montreal today.
Larkin was nominated for an Academy Award back in 1968, but lost to a
Disney entry. Landreth himself was also an Oscar nominee in 1996 for
a creative digital short called The End — which bears some style
similarities to Ryan — but he lost to Brit Nick Parks, creator of the
Wallace and Gromit films.
While none of Canada’s major directors are represented at Cannes this
year, the half-dozen titles submitted are still considered quite
Danny Chalifour, director of operations and international relations
for Telefilm Canada, the federal funding agency that operates the
Canada pavilion at Cannes, said there’s more to do at Cannes than
While he prefers not to use the word shmooz, Chalifour says bilateral
discussions with delegations from Britain, France, Germany, Australia
and New Zealand are vital for the future of the Canadian film
industry, both in terms of export sales and co-productions.
“If we’re looking at financing a feature-film budget in excess of
$6-$7 million in Canada, we basically need a partner. We can’t fund